This Mexican stewed beef recipe is incredibly flavourful and makes killer tacos!
Beef Birria is a recipe that is getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. It's delicious. And if you've ever made beef stew, Birria is about as easy to make. In fact, many of the steps are quite similar. However, this is not a traditional Birria recipe, it's my interpretation, but it tastes awesome all the same.
Traditionally, the meat used in Birria is lamb or goat; however, beef is also very common. Though this version calls for boneless beef short rib, you can use regular stewing beef, beef shank, or a mix of different cuts if that's what you have on hand. I have also made this with pork back ribs and it still turned out delicious.
If you haven't made a lot of Mexican dishes, the only ingredients here you might not be fully familiar with are the dried chillies. To see a recipe call for multiple whole dried chillies might lead you to believe it is insanely hot and spicy. On the contrary, they add a depth of flavour that couldn't be matched any other way with a bit of spice as a kick. Most of the heat in any chilli pepper is in the seeds and inside membrane, which are removed in this recipe.
How you choose to cook this Birria will depend on what is simplest for you. I typically use an Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker), but stovetop, using a Dutch oven, or in a slow cooker all work too.
As soon as the beef is ready, it can be served up with diced sweet onions and chopped fresh cilantro and eaten as a stew. With more broth it can be made into a consommé.
However, the most delicious Birria tacos are only a few more steps away, so do yourself a favour and make these. If I know I'm making Birria tacos, I literally refrain from eating more than a few vegetables the rest of the day, because I want more than 2 of these bad boys. Once you try them, you will taste why. Traditionally, these tacos are dipped into the remaining beef consommé while eating. Do yourself a favour and do not skip that step.
(Stew makes 6 servings) [OR]
(Makes 18 tacos | Serving size = 2 tacos)
4 whole dried Guajillo chillies
2 whole dried Ancho chillies (Pasilla or California chillies will also work)
1 whole dried Chipotle chilli
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
15 oz can diced tomatoes
3 lb beef short rib, boneless, cut into 3" pieces
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pear vinegar (alternately use apple cider vinegar)
2 bay leaves
additional beef broth if needed
2 corn tortillas per person (or other gluten-free alternative)
reserved Birria oil
Birria beef, shredded
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated (or dairy-free alternative) (optional)
Begin by prepping the chillies. Cut off the stems then cut the chillies open to remove the seeds. Discard seeds and stems. Boil 2 cups of beef broth in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Cut the chillies into smaller pieces and add to the boiling beef broth. Let the chillies soak while the meat is being prepared.
Place the beef in a bowl then generously sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Toss until beef is well coated. In a large pot (Dutch oven, Instant Pot, or on a sauté pan if using a slow cooker) braise the beef short rib until the pieces are browned on all sides. Do this in batches so the pot is not overcrowded. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
Add the onion into the pot and sauté until it begins to soften (about 4 minutes). Add the garlic and continue sautéing for an additional minute. Pour in the vinegar and continue to simmer, working the fond off the bottom of the pan. When the liquid has started to reduce, remove from heat and nestle the meat back into the pot, tuck in the bay leaves, and set aside. (If using a slow cooker, transfer the meat and onion with liquids at this point.)
Returning to the chillies, add the spices and tomatoes. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. (Alternately, transfer these ingredients into a blender and blend on high speed.)
Strain the chilli sauce through a sieve into the pot with the meat and mix. The level of sauce should be at or slightly above the level of the beef. If it seems too low, add a little additional beef broth and mix. Cover the pot and bring to a boil before reducing the heat to medium-low. Allow to simmer for about 3 or 4 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is completely tender and falls apart.
A layer of oil will form on the surface as the meat cooks. Skim and reserve the oil.
At this point you can serve the beef with diced onion and fresh cilantro garnishes. Eat with soft tortillas to sop up that delicious sauce. Alternately, you can now make Birria tacos.
Into separate bowls add the diced sweet onion, chopped fresh cilantro, and grated Monterey Jack cheese. Shred a portion of beef and set aside.
On a frying pan, drizzle some of the reserved Birria oil you skimmed off the beef. Place a 6" corn tortilla on the pan and allow it to begin browning. Flip the tortilla over to brown the other side. As the second side browns, spread a portion of shredded meat, a little cheese (optional), along with a bit of onion and cilantro onto one half of the tortilla. Fold the tortilla closed and continue browning, flipping it over every 30 seconds until the cheese begins to melt.
Enjoy these tacos along with a bowl of additional liquid from the beef for dipping.